MICHELE NORRIS, host: In the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the fall of Moammar Gadhafi has brought about a dramatic change on the radio dial. In the past, foreign broadcast signals were blocked. Libyans could only tune in to the government stations and what they heard was tightly controlled, and laden with pro-Gadhafi propaganda.
But as NPR's Jason Beaubien reports, Libya's airwaves now have a new sound.
JASON BEAUBIEN: In Tripoli, the radio has changed completely since the fall of Gadhafi. The airwaves which used to only carry four state-run stations are now filled with broadcasts from across the Mediterranean and North Africa.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BEAUBIEN: For decades, the radio in Libya broadcast only in Libyan Arabic and was a mouth piece for the Gadhafi regime. Now it carries news from Radio France International. Announcers yell in Italian. A station from Tunisian can be heard. Shakira is singing in Spanish and English. In the past, all of these signals were jammed.
The main national radio station which used to be called Allibiya has been taken over by the rebels and renamed Radio Libya.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: This is the radio. Radio Libya.
BEAUBIEN: Forty-six-year-old Ahmed Mustafa Sharif spent his career working as a logistics manager for a European oil company. After the rebels seized Tripoli, late last month, he became the assistant manager of Radio Libya. He walks through the main studio which is hosting a call in show. Much of the talk is upbeat about the ouster of Gadhafi, but some people also call in to complain about the lack of water or other supplies in the capital.
But even complaining is something new. Sharif says people didn't call in to complain or criticize under the old regime. Down the hall, four young musicians from Tripoli are being interviewed. It's the first time they've ever been invited to perform on the radio.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BEAUBIEN: in the control room for the broadcast studio, tears well up in Sharif's eyes as he listens to the young men sing in Arabic, English and French.
AHMED MUSTAFA SHARIF: I'm going to be cry, you know. This is the first time we feel the free, you know, in Libya.
BEAUBIEN: He says Gadhafi kept Libyans in a big jail for four decades.
SHARIF: You cannot move free. You cannot say anything on the radio. So free now. They are working free. We can put English singers, Arab singers, any singer, you can put it in the radio. But before, no. Before, we don't have this free. Also, he didn't like anybody to be star. You know, just for him. This country, just for him.
BEAUBIEN: Fuad Ramadan, who was playing guitar in the studio, says up until a few weeks ago he could have been arrested for performing most of his songs in public. He says he used to get together secretly with a group of friends to practice English and write music.
FUAD RAMADAN: We used to go and gather at Hamed's place. We used to go there without telling anybody, of course. Anybody could tell on you and you could go beyond the sun. So we used to gather. We used to make songs. We used to write together and we were actually waiting for this moment, when we could actually speak to the world and tell them how we feel.
(Singing) I believe in everything good. I believe the deserts will lead to oasis. I believe that everything you do will leave a smile on their faces...
BEAUBIEN: And he says he always believed this post-Gadhafi moment would come.
Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Tripoli.
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